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 Before Captain Passford had read two lines of the document in his hands, a noise as of a scuffle was heard in the passage way to the ward room. Mr. Baskirk was sent to ascertain the cause of the disturbance, and he threw the door wide open. Dave was there, blocking the passage way, and Pink Mulgrum was trying to force his way towards the cabin door. The steward declared that no one must go to the cabin; it was the order of the captain himself. Mulgrum found it convenient not to hear on this occasion. The moment Baskirk appeared, the deaf mute exhibited a paper, which he passed to the new lieutenant, evidently satisfied that he could get no nearer to the door. When he had delivered the paper, he hastened up the ladder to the deck. Dave came into the cabin and explained that Mulgrum had tried to force him out of the way, and he had resisted. The 137 intruder did not exhibit any paper till the third lieutenant appeared at the door.  
"That man is very persevering in his efforts to procure information," said Christy, as he unfolded the paper. "'The fog is very dense ahead, and we shall soon be shut in by it,'" he read from the paper. "Mr. Lillyworth might have found a man that could speak for his messenger," he continued, "but of course he wanted to assist his confederate to obtain more information."
"I don't see what he wants to know now, for Mulgrum has told him the contents of the sealed envelope before this time, and he knows that the gates are closed against us," added Flint. "It is plain enough that they have had their heads together."
"Certainly they have; but Mr. Lillyworth may not be any better satisfied with his information than you are, Mr. Flint," replied the captain, with an expressive smile, though he felt that his fellow officer had been tantalized long enough by the circumstances. "I have read and studied my orders very attentively. They direct me to proceed with all reasonable despatch to the Gulf of Mexico, and report to the flag officer of the Eastern Gulf Squadron, or his representative."
138 "'But information has been received,'" continued Christy, reading what he had not read before, "'that two steamers, probably fitted out for service in the Confederate navy, are approaching the coast of the Southern States, and it is very important that they should be intercepted. Both of these vessels are reported to have small crews, but they are said to be fast. The department regrets that it has not a suitable steamer available to send in search of these two vessels; but relying upon your well-known patriotism and the excellent record you have already made, you are instructed to intercept them, even if you are delayed a week or more by any hopeful circumstances.' That is the material portion of my orders," added Christy, as he read the last sentence. "But I beg you to bear in mind that I did not write the commendatory expressions in the paper."
"But they are as true as the holy Gospels!" exclaimed Flint, springing out of his chair in the heat of the excitement which the new reading of the orders produced in his mind. "But I thought you had read the sealed orders to us before, Captain Passford."
"I read but a very small part of them before; 139 and as I had to improvise the greater part of what I read, or rather did not read, but simply uttered, the language was not all well chosen," replied Christy, laughing in spite of all his attempts to maintain his dignity. "The fact is, Mr. Flint, I had too many listeners when I read the paper before."
"There was no one in the cabin but Mr. Baskirk and myself, and Dave had been stationed at the door; or at least he was there, for he beckoned you out into the gangway just as you were beginning to read the orders," argued Flint. "Possibly I should have understood the first reading better if I had not seen for myself that you had taken all precautions against any listener. You went out when Dave called you; but you were not gone half a minute; and that was not long enough for the steward to spin any long yarn."
"But it was long enough for Dave to tell me that Pink Mulgrum was under my berth, with the state room door open," replied Christy.
"Just so; I comprehend the whole matter now," said Flint, joining the captain in the laugh.
"Now you know what my instructions are, gentlemen," continued the commander, "and I 140 hope and believe that Mr. Lillyworth and his right hand man do not know them. I think you have been already posted, Mr. Baskirk, in regard to the anomalous state of affairs on board of the Bronx," added the captain.
"Not fully, Captain Passford; but Mr. Flint has told me something about the situation," replied the third lieutenant.
"It may not be necessary, gentlemen, that I should say it, but not a word of what passes in my cabin is to be repeated in any other part of the ship; not even in the ward room when you believe you are entirely alone," said the captain, very earnestly and impressively. "If the doors and keyholes do not have ears, there may be ears behind them, as some of us have learned to our entire satisfaction."
"Not a word from me, Captain Passford," added Baskirk.
"And not one from me," repeated Flint.
"Unquestionably the curiosity of Mr. Lillyworth and his confederate are and will continue to be excited to the highest pitch," continued Christy. "I shall have occasion to change the course of the ship, and head her more to the eastward. 141 Of course the second lieutenant will observe this, and will understand that I am not following the orders reported to him by Mulgrum. You are my only confidants on board, and it will be necessary for you to refer Mr. Lillyworth to me when he asks for further information."
"Perfectly understood," replied Flint, who was now in most excellent humor.
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